Ja’Marr Chase had a superlative rookie season for the Cincinnati Bengals last year, recording 81 catches for 1,455 yards and 13 touchdowns, earning Pro Bowl, All-Pro, and Offensive Rookie of the Year recognitions in the process. It was one of the all-time great rookie performances by a wide receiver in NFL history, and he’s looking for the appropriate encore.
It starts with challenging his former teammate, the Minnesota Vikings’ Justin Jefferson, who upped his stat line from 88-1,400-7 to 108-1,616-10 from his first to his second season last year. “Now that I know, I’m making it a competition”, he told Jay Morrison of The Athletic, about a friendly rivalry with his former college teammate.
But he has more personal goals, as well, even if they’re not yet defined. He’s not necessarily keeping them a secret—they’re just not finalized yet. He told Morrison that he’ll probably let reporters know what marks he is striving to hit this year by training camp.
“I’ve got two up there so far”, he said last week following a practice session. “I’m not going to say what they are, but I don’t think they’re hard. They’re a little more than last year, like catches and yards. I’ve still got to find my touchdown minimum”.
Thirteen touchdowns during his rookie season is a high bar. Randy Moss set the NFL record for a rookie with 17 receiving touchdowns back in 1998, and that’s a mark he only bettered or tied twice more in his career, which lasted 15 years. He did hit 13 or more touchdowns six times, and double digits nine times.
It probably helps Chase a lot that he has his old college connection along for the ride. He and Joe Burrow set college football records in 2019, and they seemed to pick up where they left off last year. surely the Bengals intend to keep them together for at least the next decade.
As much emphasis as Chase might put on his individual numbers, though, that’s not what the team is looking at, and frankly, that is the sort of thing that most great players tend to grow out of. Head coach Zac Taylor has other priorities in mind.
“Ultimately we’re looking for team success”, he said. “That may mean that other guys have more success because of what the defense is doing to Ja’Marr. It’s up to the coaches and Joe to take advantage of how teams are playing. In this fantasy football world, people always are looking at regression as this number has dropped. That’s not how we look at it”.
The duo, led by Taylor, came within a minute of winning the Super Bowl last year, so their own individual success certainly contributed positively to their collective success. I’m sure Chase putting up a 2,000-yard season would be good news for Cincinnati’s win-loss record.